Prolotherapy is a simple treatment used to alleviate pain stemming from arthritis or weaknesses in the connective tissues of the joints. This type of therapy actually uses the body’s own immune system to help heal the affected tissue. Overall, prolotherapy is a safe option to consider for anyone with pain that persists for several months, or pain that is not being remedied through other traditional means.
Prolotherapy implements an injection technique. These shots contain ingredients that are essentially like sugar to cause some low-grade irritation around the site of pain to stimulate the body’s own healing process. In doing this, the body can strengthen the connective tissues around a given joint to help strengthen the area. The concept is pretty straightforward. It is not a complex procedure and can be done in an office by anyone trained in the injection technique. Prolotherapy is relatively new to many physicians and might not always be covered by insurance. That being said, it is still much cheaper than x-ray guided injections or other technical treatments since the ingredients are affordable.
The research is not extensive, but there is enough data present to confirm prolotherapy's benefits. A literature review in 2007 on lower back pain suggested that prolotherapy might benefit a program using combined modalities such as acupuncture, osteopathic adjustments and physical therapy [Source: Dagenais]. Other studies have demonstrated success with prolotherapy in treating tennis elbow, sports injuries to the groin, temporomandibular joint pain (pain in the jaw) and headaches originating from neck pain [Source: Scarpone, Kim, Hakala, Linetsky]. Prolotherapy can also aid pain from an injured tailbone, called coccygodynia [Source: Khan]. This type of pain can occur after a bad fall or during the delivery of a baby. Pain in the tailbone can be difficult to treat, so sufferers should keep prolotherapy in mind.
Overall, prolotherapy is a safe procedure. The side effects include some stiffness and bruising where the treatment is administered. Prolotherapy treatments in the neck can trigger a headache. When undergoing prolotherapy, patients should be ready for the actual injection. Since it is stimulating the body’s inflammation pathway briefly, there might be some pain. In talking with patients who have had prolotherapy, they do feel the treatment, but it is not worse than the pain they are being treated for and well worth the benefits. There can be some swelling or heat around the site of treatment. Prolotherapy in the joints of the hands can help with pain. It may improve some of the range of motion of a given finger joint as well. This will vary from case to case, but it may be one of the lesser invasive options.
Prolotherapy is not a terribly difficult procedure, but it is not common. It might take a little time to find a practitioner in your area. Check with your local physician first, then consult a phone book or the Internet. Once you have found a practitioner, ask for recommendations to see if that person frequently treats your type of problem. Keep prolotherapy in mind for various types of chronic pain. It is a simple, useful treatment that is, overall, tolerated very well. It has the ability to help ease pain quickly and can be done in the office setting. As more patients explore prolotherapy, insurance coverage for it will improve.